Friday, January 25, 2008

Alexander Cockburn: A Short History of Fear

Alexander Cockburn has written a book combining Stephen Hawking with Michael Crichton, A Short History of Fear, to be released in April. But already now, in
he describes how the warming church has almost crucified him.

Also, he argues that global warming in general and Al Gore's activities in particular are politically driven and caused by failures of previous left-wing ideologies (he says that the remaining ashes of socialism have themselves turned into a degraded Malthusian outlook, even in Europe) - these Cockburn's ideas sound just like Václav Klaus - but he adds a characteristically left-wing comment that this program can't help to realize the leftist dreams because it will be no one else than the corporations and evil capitalists who will benefit from the fear. ;-)

Well, I tend to agree that the people who benefit are evil even though their identification with capitalism or corporations depends on your conventions. At any rate, I agree with the liberal pundit that it is wrong for various non-profit organizations to have lunches paid by indulgences and it is wrong to promote nuclear energy by global warming fears even if - and even though - nuclear energy is a great thing.

Cockburn paints peer review in the real world as a method to form biased cliques of friends that fight against the unexpected and undesirable. He writes about the political implication of climate alarmism for the third world (e.g. green ideological problems with the new cheap Indian car) and about the self-righteous intimidation he has been subjected to because of his previous blasphemies.

Let me offer you one of hundreds of similar stories of your humble correspondent. A nice former senior ex-colleague of mine was spending some quality time with Naomi Oreskes and he had the interesting idea to put us in touch to discuss the climate. Unfortunately, she first saw my page debunking her paper that had argued that 100% of papers support the "global warming consensus" and she sent me a testimony of hers in the Senate, expecting that it would settle all my questions.

So I sent her a detailed technical analysis of her well-known controversy with Benny Peiser: what points of Peiser's criticism were incorrect and which of them were correct and why etc. She clearly had no idea about the actual literature about the climate and the proportion of papers of various kinds.

On December 12th, 2006, I finally received the following e-mail:
If you are not persuaded by fifty years of scientific work, including by some of the leading geophysicists and atmospheric chemists of our era, then nothing I can say will change your mind, and I apologize for taking your time.
That was an OK e-mail. However, what was less OK was the list of recipients: copies of this e-mail were sent to two senior ex-colleagues of mine whom I knew very well. Incidentally, this technique has been used not only by Naomi Oreskes. Years earlier, an e-mail from Michael Mann (or Stephen Schneider?) was also sent to Daniel Schrag and a few other Harvard alarmists.

If this were not a flagrant case of intimidation, what would be one? Imagine that a senior white male right-wing professor would send such a letter - indicating his foe's incompatibility with the scientific community - to his junior female left-wing colleague, while copies would go to her senior right-wing white male colleagues. A new world war could possibly begin and the white male perpetrator would have to resign with the whole hierarchy above him that was unable to stop this shocking case of discrimination. ;-)

Of course, I didn't get intimidated that easily, so my equally polite - but probably unexpected - answer was as follows:
Dear Prof Oreskes,

thank you very much for your apology although the reason why Prof [1] and Prof [2] have received a copy of this e-mail remains unknown to me.

Sincerely Yours
Yes, it seems I wasn't persuaded by self-described authorities and the permanent repetition of some people's favorite talking points; only scientific arguments would matter in my case. Moreover, I have never considered geophysics and atmospheric chemistry to be among top scientific disciplines with the brightest people. ;-)

She was explained these things pretty clearly. And indeed, it has worked in this case. The crackpot has simply shut her mouth and I haven't heard from her again. So even though she was using some of the classical totalitarian tricks to impose her favorite ideology on others, she was not among the worst ones.

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